Movie: Ready Player One

"Ready Player One"

In the year 2045, people can escape their harsh reality in the OASIS, an immersive virtual world where you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone-the only limits are your own imagination. OASIS creator James Halliday left his immense fortune and control of the Oasis to the winner of a contest designed to find a worthy heir. When unlikely hero Wade Watts conquers the first challenge of the reality-bending treasure hunt, he and his friends–known as the High Five–are hurled into a fantastical universe of discovery and danger to save the OASIS and their world.

I’ve been sitting on this post for a couple of weeks now–not because I didn’t have anything to write about, but because I wanted to read the book first before I wrote down my thoughts about the movie. And I’m glad I did. Because now I can safely say that I prefer the film version to the source material.

Don’t get me wrong: Ready Player One is a good novel. It’s engaging, for the most part, and it has a great story structure. But the Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation is easier to like. And here are my reasons why:

The film is more pop-culture savvy. A lot of movie reviews have cited that the movie adaptation favored films in its quests and easter eggs. And it is true. But what a lot of them fail to mention is that the film is more aware of what’s popular to the mainstream audience. Not everyone is familiar with the old generation gaming platforms, much less their games. There were a lot of references in the book that flew over my head. So I believe that the film strikes a good balance of including what’s popular, while sticking in obscure references that feels like they were taken from the novel.

The characters are given more to do. The biggest difference between books and TV/film adaptations is the fact that the latter needs to cutaway to what’s happening elsewhere. Books have the luxury of pages, where they can focus on their main protagonist while slowly unraveling the development and objectives of other characters. With those pages, books can foreshadow and plant plot devices that they can harvest later on. TV and movies don’t have the same luxury–and are often restricted by budget and time.

With Ready Player One‘s source material, almost all decisive action comes from our protagonist Wade Watts. And, as such, most of the other characters feel half-baked. Love interest Art3mis doesn’t feel real–even during the final pages, when she and Wade finally meet in person. And there’s even less for players Aech, Daito, and Shoto to do. And here’s where the time constraints of a film worked in favor of the other characters. Because we can’t have hours upon hours of Wade just agonizing over clues, the movie utilized the other characters to figure things out faster than Wade does–or have them become a sounding board for Wade to talk things out with. And, in doing so, the characters feel more developed. Although, to be honest, they’re still not developed enough.

Pacing-wise, the film automatically wins because it’s only a couple of hours long. But more than that, it doesn’t fall into long periods of non-activity like the book. In the novel, when Wade is stuck on something, it feels like author Ernest Cline want us to feel just as stuck as he is. There were a handful of instances when I actually told the book to “get a move on” aloud.

Another thing I thought the film did better is the insertion of Ogden Morrow’s character. The reveal of his character felt like a brilliant move in the film–but in the novel, he quickly read as deus-ex-machina. That said, the book does get to expound more on who Ogden Morrow is, and who he became–but that’s the luxury of pages.

When it comes to the actual challenges though, I’m more split. I love that the movie made the challenges more visual and more personal… But I really liked the novel’s way of complicating the third quest. Both the film and the novel underlines the importance of relationships, but it’s the book that highlights its need better.

And speaking of what the book does better– I also think the novel was better at upping the stakes. The movie puts all the characters in one city, while the book has three of them living outside the US. And then there’s the tension. While the film shows early on how formidable the villains are, they become pretty tame as the rest of the movie unfolds. The book actually allows the villains to kill off one of the heroes.

Now with all this said… I feel like there’s enough of a distinction between the novel and the movie version of Ready Player One that they should be treated as separate entities. They have the same characters and premise, yes, and they do have a similar plot structure. But the things that happen in between? The hows and whys that push the story forward? They’re all pretty much different.

But I still like the movie better.

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Book: The Game of Lives

"The Game of Lives"

Michael used to live to game. Now the games he was playing have become all too real. Only weeks ago, Sinking ino the Sleep was fun. The VirtNet combined the most cutting-edge technology and the most sophisticated gaming for a full mind-body experience. And it was Michael’s passion. But now every time Michael Sink,s he risks his life.

The games are over. The VirtNet has become a world of deadly consequences, and Kaine grows stronger by the day. The Mortality Doctrine–Kaine’s master plan–has nearly been realized, and little by little the line separating the virtual from the real is blurring. If Kaine succeeds, it will mean worldwide cyber domination. And it looks like Michael and his friends are the only ones who can put the monster back in the box–if Michael can figure out who his friends really are.

I am done with the Mortality Doctrine trilogy. Literally, because this is the last book. I hope. And figuratively, because… Well, this was one tough book to finish. And no, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to let go of the story yet. It was mostly because I found it hard not to root for the villains.

Halfway through the book, I was sick and tired of the main character, Michael.

But more than an unlikable main character, what I didn’t like about The Game of Lives is that it doesn’t provide a fulfilling conclusion to the journey we started with The Eye of Minds. It still feels like random events are happening to stop the main characters from achieving their goal without rhyme or reason.

And then there were the characters.

I love morally gray characters. They make stories interesting, because you never know if they would do something good, or bad. They’re even better when you can see why they would choose to do a good or a bad thing. But when they’re doing something obviously sinister, and then they say they’re doing something good without back-up evidence that they might actually be telling the truth? You get a villain like Klaine.

Come to think of it, my problem with the Mortality Doctrine from the get go has always been Klaine. I understand the need for a complicated villain, but I feel like we were short-changed with a villain who can’t decide if he’s good, bad, or just plain selfish.

I hated Klaine not because he was the bad guy, but because he was badly written. He is supposed to be scary, but he doesn’t really pose any threat. Not even during the last battle between good and evil. Not even during the last part where our main protagonist is duking it out with him.

Stories like this always needs a good villain. That’s half the battle. When your villain doesn’t live up to the title of head evil honcho? However you end the series will be disappointing.

And that’s what The Game of Lives is: a disappointing ending to a series that wasn’t all that stellar to begin with.

Book: The Eye of Minds

"The Eye of Minds"

Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. and recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific–the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker.

And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team. But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom–and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.”

If you’re looking for something exactly like The Maze Runner, then this book is for you. If you’re looking for something similar but has its own trajectory– Well, you might want to look somewhere else.

Okay, maybe that’s not fair. The Eye of Minds is a good enough novel. Nowhere near as good as James Dashner’s previous trilogy, but The Eye of Minds is shaping up to be a very good follow-up. But that’s also the thing. It follows The Maze Runner. Too much, if I’m to be honest.

Sure, they don’t exactly share the same elements. But the journey that our main protagonist takes to get to where he needs to go? It’s way too similar, and although months have passed in between me reading The Maze Runner and The Eye of Minds, I couldn’t help but connect the parallels. And it is distracting.

Things do improve, a lot, once we reach the end game. This is when The Eye of Minds completely leaves the shadow of The Maze Runner to finally stand on its own.

It’s just too bad that it takes us almost the whole book before we finally see that this is a different story. That this is not a retread of something that had worked before.

Although, if we had a more interesting protagonist, I don’t think I would have minded the parallelism between the two stories as much. But as it is, our main protagonist is pretty much one note throughout the whole book. Of course, we find out why in the end–but, once again, when everything happens near the end and during the end, then you don’t win. You’ve already lost your reader.

But seeing as I did finish the book, I am looking forward to see where James Dashner takes this story. I am curious as to how this whole thing will unravel.

Now, before you go, why don’t you check out a few other reaction posts on the book?
Bookish
Alice Marvels
Book Twirps